Just hours after Kimberly-Clark, the consumer-products giant that owns Kleenex and Huggies, said it will shutter its Venezuela operations after years of grappling with soaring inflation and a shortage of hard currency and raw materials, Venezuela retaliated by announcing it would seize the factory.
Over the weekend, Kimberly-Clark said that the South American nation’s deteriorating economic situation had made “it impossible to continue our business at this time." The company had made a number of hard-to-find staples in Venezuela such as diapers and face tissues.
As Bloomberg adds, the decision will likely to add to shortages that have gripped Venezuela for the past few years after the ruling socialists capped the price on many consumer basics below production costs." As we have documented repeatedly, desperate shoppers now routinely spend long hours in front of stores to purchase essential products ranging from toilet paper to rice. At the same time, companies face hefty losses on price-controlled goods, while the products are often flipped on the black market for many times their sticker price.
So in retaliation, Venezuela's government announced it had seized the factory. Labor Minister Owaldo Vera said Monday that the socialist government took the action at the request of the 971 workers at the factory that the company decided to shutter. The seizure follows a similar takeover from 2014 when Clorox announced it was closing its doors.
"Kimberly-Clark will continue producing for all of the Venezuelans," Vera said in a televised statement from the factory surrounded by workers chanting pro-government slogans. That statement was not exactly true: former workers of the company would continue producing under the observation of government management. We doubt this "forced restructring" will survive more than a few months.
Maduro's socialist government accused Kimberly-Clark of failing to properly notify the government of its plans. The Irving, Texas-based company did not comment Monday about Venezuela's actions.
Kimberly-Clark joins Bridgestone, General Mills, Procter & Gamble and other multinational corporations in scaling back operations in Venezuela amid its economic crisis. More will follow.